Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Capitalism and dance do not mix. No matter who you are on Earth, look around you, and you’ll see that you live in a culture of dancing, or you exist within the influence of capitalism. Never do both thrive simultaneously.

Culture is our immune system. It keeps us strong and vibrant. It connects us to a community with the healthful consequences that come with that bond. Dance is one of the indicators of this system’s strength; it is the rosy hue of our complexion, the fire in our eyes, the strength of our stride. If you need a quick summation of a culture’s vitality, you only require the answer to one question: do the people dance? Capitalism aims to penetrate the social body. It is a pathogen that sees only one role for the organism it invades: a host for itself. The virus has no respect for the welfare of the being that it usurps; it desires only infection of that body and contagion to the next. It feeds off the host, sapping it of vigour, exhausting the muscles, straining the being in unseemly ways. Now, fever overtakes us, the sickly. We rush to work, speed to the next mall sale. Sirens blare in the night. Prisons are filled. Pink slips are issued. Now, delirium accosts us. Political campaigners, advertisers and agents of public relations garble delusional messages into our ears. Finally tiredness overcomes us. Television, alcohol, drugs, and fluffy internet apps send us into our stupor.

The immune system activates to counter this onslaught. But it struggles. Native peoples of European settler countries suffer the inevitable, dire poverty of modern capitalist “development” while they dance for their very cultural lives. On the Iberian peninsula, birthplace of the flamenco, the fandango, the paso doble, the bolero and the sardana, the capitalist bug completed its infection after taking advantage of a crippled immune system. The cultures of the Basques, Catalans, Andalusians and others were squashed by the goose-stepping Spanish fascists in the 1930’s, dance shoes being no match for jackboots. This pattern repeats globally. Governments the world over—“democratic,” or totalitarian—use State toxins to weaken the immunity of the social body for the benefit of the capitalist contagion.

Revival of the Sardana

The State-assisted capitalist epidemic broke out first in the British Isles with its industrialization and merchant trading. And now almost no one in those ancient lands know the steps to the jig, the reel, the fling, the strathspey, or the Morris dance any more. Dances of central Europe and Germany—the schuhplattler, the ländler, the waltz, the polka—suffered a loss of vitality soon afterwards. And similarly, we see the virus sweeping across 21st century China as the mechanical Han Chinese produce coal mines and factories, condominiums and brand-name apparel, with nary a bounce in their step. In all of these countries dance primarily exists in two forms. It becomes a theatre show for viewing, a spectacle to watch but not for doing. Put in a petri dish and swirled around. Or young party-goers flail about desperately in nightclubs, alcohol sloshing within their bellies, in decidedly un-cultural ways.

To be sure, on occasion new dance styles are invented such as hip hop and jumpstyle on the streets and in the clubs. But they struggle to revive the culture and often fade out after some time. Or the contagion immerses them, and they become assimilated by capitalist forces. One of the greatest dancers in modern times, Michael Jackson, rose up from meagre origins, realized great financial success, and promptly forgot how to create new steps. A rose emerged from the dirt, swayed and fluttered attractively to the rhythm of the wind, and was plucked crudely for the businessman’s lapel.

But maybe there is hope yet. The Greeks, perhaps the only Western Europeans to maintain dear feelings for dance, those people of hundreds of styles, muster some resistance to the International Monetary Fund and other bullying financial organizations–while commentators laughably write, “The Greeks’ innate anti-authoritarianism… is at the heart of the problem.” The capitalist pathogen surrounds Cuba seeking a vector into that lively organism while the defenders conjure up the cha-cha, summon the spirit of the salsa, and invoke the magic of the mambo for protection. The samba-loving Brazilians and tango-strutting Argentines resist international capitalist pressures. The Bolivians with their caporales, morenada, kullwada, diablada, and countless other dances gyrate, bounce, and skip an anti-globalization president into office. How wonderful that some refuse to march in step.

Anarchist Emma Goldman once said: If there won’t be dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming. I can tap my foot to that tune.

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In my last blog entry I explained how I get a good chuckle from streakers. And, unknown to me, as I wrote that post, such a ballsy act was swinging into action—as ballsy acts do—not far from where currently I sit. So, here is a short follow-on post—not to discuss more nudity, mind you, but, rather, stadiums.

B.C. Place Stadium

In Vancouver, The B.C. Lions play that false variant of football where an oblong “ball” is struck by an actual foot hardly at all and with about as much grace as a steroid needle plunging into buttock muscle. “The beautiful game” it ain’t, but, nevermind: as far as sports go, this one makes about as much sense as any of the others. Now, these faux wildcats normally play in a soulless concrete cavern of a stadium, on fake grass, illuminated by artificial light, beneath a glorified umbrella of a roof. An apparatus of sorts, a noise-o-meter, is employed to elicit the effects of enthusiasm (i.e. cheering noises) with none of the normal causes for such (i.e. something exciting occurring). Imagine the choreographed mass applause for Our Beloved Comrade Leader in some far off dictatorland—minus the actual Beloved Comrade Leader. Like that.

When Rudolf Rocker wrote of “the tuning of all human feeling to one note, the rejection of the rich diversity of life, the mechanical fitting of all effort to a designated pattern”, he might have been discussing a B.C. Lions game. Is it any wonder that brawls in the stands have been common? I attended a game years ago and left half way through. I heard on the radio later that “we” had won.

But the other night, from one account anyway, it appears the sorry status quo was turned on its head. The team was the same; the rules of the game hadn’t changed. But a mood of great festivity had overwhelmed the fans. Cheering happened spontaneously and naturally. Laughter rained down from the stands for the nude fellow rushing across the field. Some sang for no particular reason other than good mood, and still others stomped their feet. Hundreds built a “beer snake” from their empty plastic cups and wriggled it around the stadium. Inevitably the noise-o-meter made its ugly appearance, and fans thrashed it with their silence. What brought on this infection of good cheer, this organic sprouting of the best of human feelings? Quite simply: the venue. Gone was the cavern, changed to an outdoor arena, with real grass, a blue and white sky, wind and sun.

With a little reflection, I might wonder whether these football games say something about human nature. How do the physical surroundings affect the mood of individuals and the behaviour of crowds? Are people, when allowed to behave naturally, innately good? But maybe that is meat for another post.

By the way, the outcome of the game this particular day? The home team lost. I wonder if anyone minded?

Rudolf Rocker

This post is an adapted excerpt from: On the Nature of Software Anarchism

Anarchist Rudolph Rocker reminds us that “[p]ower and culture are, in the deepest sense, irreconcilable opposites….”[1] “[C]ulture has its roots in the community”[2] and is a force for creativeness while power concentrates with a select few and “is never creative.”[3] Countless online communities can vouch for the truth of this. Free and Open Source Software development can vouch for this.

But forces are in play that aim to undermine the entire internet freedom project. State-crafted corporate law has unleashed armies of rapacious lawyers slobbering over the money to be made in defending “intellectual property rights.” It is a complete impossibility to devise a software program that is wholly unique; no program beyond the minutely trivial (not open source, not proprietary) will contain all-original code. And yet the software patent system gives licence to the strong to defend their mythical property thereby threatening innovation and freedom among the weaker.[4]

Of course the attacks do not end there. File sharing sites are shut down, down-loaders are sued, banks and governments go after undesirable websites such as wikileaks, and even the internet itself is in danger of losing its neutrality.

Power is never freely given but is always taken by force. As a consequence, the elites of society will always find an enemy in freedom for the masses. And those who possess no desire or possibility to attain power themselves must always be on guard against coercion by society’s controllers and designers. Sometimes the coercion is stark and obvious. It takes the form of torture rooms, or, if we are lucky enough, mere legislation. But often it is sly and difficult to perceive. It is “the tuning of all human feeling to one note, the rejection of the rich diversity of life, the mechanical fitting of all effort to a designated pattern.”[5] It shapes our ideas and sets our biases. It lurks in the language we unwittingly use such as “intellectual property”, “software piracy”, and “theft” limiting our intellectual capacity. We must be careful what we think. We must be careful what thoughts the words we use allow.

[1] Rudolph Rocker, “Nationalism and Culture”, Rocker Publications Committee, 1937, page 85
[2] Ibid., page 81
[3] Ibid., page 83
[4] Richard Stallman, The Danger of Software Patents, Government Model Engineering College, India
[5] Rudolph Rocker, “Nationalism and Culture”, Rocker Publications Committee, 1937, page 165